Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Where It All Starts
From the "Um . . . tell us something we didn't already know" file, pastors don't really know what the heck they are doing.I hesitate slightly on this one because in some cases I have seen the whole "fallible pastor" thing has resulted in a loss of any sense of holiness about the church at all, but then holiness should not be dependent on leadership, but the congregation. This fact tells us something about institutional organization, not just leadership.
I firmly believe that many of us pastors experience burnout because we cannot fathom the public acknowledgment that we do not have it all together and fully understand "God's plan" for our lives. We are so driven by the doing of ministry and the need for acknowledgment and success that we sometimes justify this yearning by dismissing any brokenness its pursuit may create as part of our sacrifice to God. In an attempt to move closer to God by our successes we move further away from God by distancing ourselves from those whom God lives through all around us. I struggle with this all the time in my own need for recognition and influence and its effect of family, community and my own well-being. What pursuits are of God, what are simply driven by my own vanity and can we ever fully separate the two?
I have said repeatedly that I am Presbyterian because I believe it is the best way to organize a church. But any organizational scheme requires people with the right talents in the right places. In the true Presbyterian system, pastors do not lead the congregation except in limited areas - the Session does. I truly believe that what has happened in our church is as much a failure of ordained lay leadership as it is clerical leadership. But then I also think clerical leadership has failed to develop in lay leadership what is required. - or they need to go recruit it for their congregation.
I increasingly see churches where staff views Session as annoyance and almost "us v them" mentality develops. Either that, or I see Session reduced to insignificance, something that the church does to keep its Presbyterian charter. but once the budget is approved, the Session sees nothing that actually matters, and the budget discussion is so carefully controlled as to give the Session little choice.
Bruce starts in the right place by "confessing" his inabilities. It is the place that every single one of us should start. I confess that I cannot preach worth a tinker's doggone. So now what?
May I suggest that we work, diligently, to function like the genuine body of Christ. To actually use all the gifts that are around us, which means using all the people around the church. One of the major products of humility is giving up control.
Funny, the institution builds the character which builds the institution.